But right now, she was going to stop thinking about the hard work they'd accomplished along with everything still to be done. She would forget the German PWs and anything other than a long soak in the tub. It might do her good to feel like a girl again, even for only an hour or two before she went to sleep and then got up to get dirty all over again. She turned and trudged up the stairs to her room.
Fannie put the German prisoners out of her mind. Over the coming days, she and Jerry got the western field disked, harrowed, and seeded with oats, and their routines settled into normalcy. Green shoots of corn and peas climbed taller. Fannie spent most of her days out in the field with a hoe. Jerry too. Mom handled slopping the hogs, milking their two cows, and raising her chickens. Mom hadn't mentioned the PW workers again, and after a couple more weeks, Fannie started wondering if she might have changed her mind.
On Friday morning, the last day of June, she donned a dress and left for her part-time job at the Rice Lake Public Library. Fannie had been working four days a week before her dad passed on. The job, which had been both an income and a sort of pleasant pastime for Fannie, was paying her way through normal school. Until quitting the program to take over the work of the farm. Maybe now she never would finish. Unless they really did get those PWs.
Sorting books and returning them to their correct locations on the shelves felt like coming home. She breathed in the scent of inked paper and binding and reveled in the quiet where the sounds of a chugging tractor and buzzing insects didn't invade. Before she finished for the day, she checked out a new stack of books for Patsy. That girl devoured reading material.
The next morning, Fannie slid back into her newly washed overalls and tied a kerchief over her hair, ready to face another day of outdoor work. The reprieve of the library refreshed her, and tomorrow after church they'd enjoy a potluck picnic following the service.
The library job and church services—those two small breaks each week—might get her through the summer and fall. Maybe by then the war would be over and Cal and Dale would both be home again.
Lord, let it be so.
She stepped onto the landing outside her bedroom door and met Patsy on her way to breakfast. Her sister wore one of Jerry's old checked shirts and rolled denim pants. Her hair was divided into pigtails only a shade lighter than Fannie's rich brown. Patsy cast big, chocolaty eyes and a smile at her.
"Good morning, Fan."
"Good morning." They started down the stairs.
"Thanks again for bringing me the books. I started A Tree Grows in Brooklyn last night. It's sooo good." Her words dripped with dramatics.
"I might have to read it sometime."
"You should." Patsy trotted on down ahead of her.
When would Fannie have time for pleasure reading again? She had no idea. The very thought seemed ludicrous. Maybe someday when life returned to normal, when she was finished with her education, when she became a teacher and could come home at night to grade her students' papers and tuck herself into bed with a good book.
Maybe not until I'm thirty.
Mom nodded at the table as Fannie strode into the kitchen. Pancakes and eggs waited. Fannie noted the maple syrup tin sitting on the table. Since the sugar rationing began, maple syrup was an even richer treasure for occasional use. Mom usually saved it for special days, but Fannie wasn't about to question it today. A minute later, Jerry came in, pulling up his suspenders and joining Fannie at the table. Mom set a pitcher of milk between them. "You two had better eat up. They'll be here soon."
"They? Who—" Suddenly Fannie knew who Mom meant. "How many are coming?"
"Could be half a dozen men or so. Depends." Mom shrugged without elaborating. "Patsy, when they come, you stay here at the house. I don't want to see you wandering out there acting curious."
"I don't want to go anywhere near those Germans. They probably have spies. But do I have to stay inside?" Patsy scrunched her nose.
Fannie and Jerry glanced at each other, an unspoken acknowledgment that they agreed with Patsy about the spies.
"Not inside, but right in the yard where I can see you. I've got work for you in the garden today."
Patsy nodded and turned to her breakfast.
Fortified with two eggs and a second pancake, Fannie dabbed the calico cloth napkin to her lips when the sound of a truck rumbling up the driveway captured all their attention. They rose and moved as a family toward the front door and stepped through to the porch.